Is it ever right to sell to kids?


July 4, 2014

One of the joys of being a parent is being able to watch Milkshake on Channel 5 every single morning. Amongst the endless fun and frolics of Fireman Sam, Bananas in Pyjamas and Olly the Little White Van, there are adverts – lots and lots of adverts. Whilst many are aimed at Mums and Dads (Cillit Bang… Direct Line… Fairy Liquid) many more are aimed at children – which, as my daughter begged me for the umpteenth time to buy her a Barbie Dream House, made me think: is it ever right to sell to kids?

My gut instinct is to scream ‘NO!’ really loudly at the TV – after all, what these toy manufacturers are doing is speaking to an audience that is too young to have any kind of built-in filter. What that basically means is, ad comes on, kid sees ad, kid wants what’s in ad, kid nags parent. Next ad, same scenario: kid sees ‘must have’ item, immediately asks Mum / Dad to buy it for them. To me there is something not quite right about that. After all, children are young, innocent and (until the age of five or six anyway) fairly naïve. Using them to get to the parent / person who pays the bills just seems wrong – not to mention highly cynical.

I guess the advertisers would say that parents know the deal when they allow their kids to watch commercial television – after all, ads pay for the programmes to be shown in the first place. And sure, if, as a parent, you don’t want your child exposed to advertising, then either turn it off or switch to BBC.

Where I don’t have such a problem with ads for kids is when the commercial in question is advertising something that could actually do the child viewing some good. Example: the Aquafresh Brush Time smartphone app. Here’s a piece of technology that encourages children to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day – helping them do so with jaunty music and entertaining animation.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a killjoy – and I know that, one way or another, kids are going to find out about the latest toy and, in all likelihood, get their hands on it. So maybe the best people to make a judgement call on it are the Advertising Standards Authority – the guardians of all things right and wrong in UK advertising. All I’m saying is that just for once it would be nice to enjoy an episode of City of Friends without being asked to spend hundreds of pounds on toys afterwards!

by Dave Washer

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